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Spontaneity

Thursday, 7 November 2019

How am I feeling? My heart is racing. I'm excited, nervous and a little bit sad all at the same time. I've just got my flight confirmation; I leave in two days.

I got back from my last trip just over a month ago and I have been going stir crazy with no trips to look forward to and no job to fill my time. All I've been doing is thinking about the adventures of the past three years; the ups, the downs, the people I met, the places I lived and it has in all honesty been driving me crazy. I need something new to think about. 

I've had enough of feeling sorry for myself. I want to have some fun so I'm going back to Thailand. Only for two weeks mind, but hopefully I'll be in a better frame of mind to restart my life in England for real when I get back.

Time to get packing!

How to stay fit whilst traveling

Thursday, 31 October 2019

You leave your eating routine and normal food behind and are thrown into something totally unfamiliar in every way when you go travelling. In Thailand and Vietnam especially, the streets are filled with the noises and smells of freshly cooked food and I just couldn't resist it.

Although to counteract that, you're no longer sat at a desk 9 hours a day. You've got to lug your backpack around and explore your new surroundings in the blistering heat so your weight and wellbeing could go either way.

I however took a carry on case - so there was no lugging to be done (tactical) plus I'm not a big nature lover so there wasn't much intensity to my exploring. As such, it wasn't exactly a surprise that  I put on over a stone in three months; food was such a huge part of my experience that it was inevitable. 
Once I realised what was happening, I decided to take a little bit more care of my body whilst I was out having fun. Here are some simple ways that I kept myself healthy:

Cycling 

I wasn't a confident cyclist when I was in in Asia, but 8 months of Uber eats in Australia changed that. My bike was my life when I lived in Surfers Paradise, not only earning me money but giving me freedom as well as keeping me fit. I fell in love with cycling there and aspire to be like these incredible people and continue my new hobby for years to come.

I will always regret not taking a cycle tour in Hoi An because I was scared so I'd love to go back and do that one day now.

Gym

Surprisingly enough, I started my gym habit whilst I was in Vietnam. I was waiting for my NZ visa to come through and had exhausted everything else so I decided to go to the gym for entertainment. It cost me £3 per session and I actually felt great when I left so I popped in every time I was bored after that and have been going ever since.

Walking

Arriving somewhere totally foreign can be very overwhelming but I always enjoy exploring a new city by foot. With a local SIM in my phone, the quickest way to get to know my new surrounding was put in the location of what I wanted to get to and walk there. I love being able to stop off to look at things on the way.
 
Fruit

Being abroad really made me realise how terrible the fruit is back home in the UK so as well as stuffing my face with noodles and ice cream, I took full advantage of all the delicious fruit on offer too.  The street vendors will slice it up making it super easy to eat on the go. I usually go for mango or pineapple.

Resistance Bands 

When I got home, I ordered a few resistant bands (just on ebay) which I then put in my backpack and took with me when I left again. If I went to the gym, I would always take them with but the good thing about resistance bands is that they can be used anywhere. I would often use them at home when I couldn't be bothered to get dressed properly and go out.

Adding these simple things, didn't take up much time but always made me feel much better whilst I was abroad. So much so that I have brought my new habits home with me and try to practice them as often as possible!

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Does backpacking cost alot?

Monday, 28 October 2019

Summer in London is well and truly over and these recent miserable days have seen me reminiscing on happier, sunnier memories. I have been telling anyone and everyone who will listen that whether it's going back to my favourite parts of Asia or getting myself combo Orlando tickets and doing Disney solo I am ready for another adventure; although every time I mention going away again, I get questioned on how I'm going to afford it.

Fact of the matter is, travel is a priority for me and honestly, backpacking in Southeast Asia really doesn't cost much as all, in fact, once you've got flights out of the way, having fun on holiday in Thailand is much cheaper than living day to day in London. 

I spent 3 months travelling around southeast Asia from September - December 2017 and spent a grand total of £2300. I didn't set myself a budget - I bought, did and ate everything I wanted to do and minus return flights from London that worked out to around £23 a day for absolutely everything.
 The main ways I kept my spending low was by staying in hostels, eating street food and travelling on ground rather than by air where I could - but even if I had endless money to spend, I would have done exactly the same because these three things were an integral part of my backpacking experience. 

Accommodation

Whilst I did stay in all sorts of places from serviced apartments in the city center to cute little huts on the beach, hostels were always the cheapest options. These usually cost between £3 - £8 per night and sometimes they even included things like breakfast or free drinks at the bar. 

Once you know what you are looking for, getting your choice of hostel right is pretty easy. If you are going by price alone, you can get hostels for as little as £2 per night but the most important thing for me was how social a place was. More often than not, the party hostels cost a bit more than the quieter ones but for me, it was always worth the extra £2/£3 per night.

I would keep the prices to a minimum though by booking the cheapest rooms; this usually meant sharing with the most people but in all honesty, they were usually the most fun.

Food

I definitely ate more than the average person I met whilst backpacking and I took any and every opportunity to eat so this was where a big chunk of my money went.

That being said, it didn't really cost me that much because I would always eat from street vendors as this was cheaper than western food and cheaper still than local restaurants. Not only that but the food was always freshly cooked in front of me and it made me feel most immersed in the culture.

It was different on day trips but on an average day at the hostel, eating was my main activity. I'd usually head out for a morning smoothie. A couple of hours later I'd be on the hunt for some local food and something sweet to eat after that - fresh mango, milk tea, ice cream ect. Then again a few hours later for dinner, and then again on the way home after a night out, usually spending £1/£2 per trip.

Activity

When it came to activities and adventures, there were big variations.

In Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Mihn City, I spent over 3 weeks in each city so by the end, I spent most of my time hanging out at the malls, getting to know the area or just staying in playing cards at the hostel, this was mostly free.

In Chaing Mai and Langkawi, I visited waterfalls, wandered around local markets or explored the temples close to where I was staying. This was a little bit more adventurous but still mostly free.

In Penang and Yogyakarta, we worked out how to get to where we wanted to go via public transport. It took a while but cost us pennies.

In Ubud and Phuket, a group of us would hire a driver for the day and visit a whole bunch of different attractions, stopping off for lunch in the middle. Split between 3 or 4 people, this would costs less than £7/£8 each
The most expensive outings were the ones that I was doing alone; or the event type ones like going to see Malaysia's last F1 race - we had to buy tickets and then work out how to get there and back since it wasn't just a tourist experience.
 
To visit Borobodur temple for example, I found Java very hard to navigate so I decided to just pay for the full service so I didn't have to think about the logistics. Again, the white temple in Chaing Rai was just too far away from where I was staying so I had to book a tour.

Full on day trips cost never really cost more than £20 and these usually included everything you'd need from transport to entrance fees and lunch as well.

Internal Travel

Flying is usually the quickest and simplest way to get from one country to another but it is always the most expensive. Sometimes though, it was the only option so I made sure that I traveled with a cabin size approved case and this saved me loads. Internal flights could costs as little as £18 although adding hold luggage on top would then cost more than the flight itself on top.
 My favourite way to travel from place to place was by bus - although no one ever agreed with me on this, it was just what I enjoyed doing - most people preferred to take a night bus which saved then on accommodation for that night but I didn't feel safe doing this on my own. They left from the city center rather than an airport miles away from anything and meant a whole day to myself, armed with a bag of snacks and my headphones. I'd sit and watch the world go by between naps and toilet breaks. Buses like this would usually cost £5-£8.

What else did I spend money on?

SIM Cards

One thing I was never without when I was traveling was a local SIM card. These varied in price but were always very cheap compared to back home. In Malaysia, it cost me something like £4 and in Thailand it was more like £15, both for unlimited data. Data meant I could use maps, Uber, whatever I needed and this made me feel much safer than otherwise. 
 
Medical 

I did end up heading to the doctors a few times and this was probably the thing I spent most on at one time. It would only cost between £20-£30 each visit but obviously it was worth it, both times I left with a load of medicine to fix everything. Had I bought more expensive insurance, I could have claimed it back but with a £75 excess it was totally pointless.  

Clothes 

Buying clothes is not something I was planning to do but I didn't pack enough so I had to in the end. Nothing that I picked up cost more than £3/£4 because I liked to barter. 
This trip changed my life and wherever it is you want to visit, I would recommend solo travel to everyone. This trip is forever on my mind - I'd love to go back and do it all over again; but it also makes me think about all the other places I'd love to visit solo.

Since food is obviously such an important thing for me,  Japan, Mexico and America are high up on my list. As mentioned earlier, Disney would be awesome; I can imagine it might cost a little more but that idea no longer scares me. Similarly with my backpacking trip, if I prioritise what I'm spending on, plan properly and do things like get my tickets before, traveling to Orlando and exploring the theme parks doesn’t have to cost a lot.

I used to want luxury everything and of course you do need some money to travel but what this trip has taught me is that it really doesn't need to cost the world to be enjoyable; there's more to life than fancy hotels and expensive restaurants.

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a Relaxed New Zealand North Island Road trip

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Like most people, Jonny hadn't really seen much of his own country and having spent 5 months there myself, I was a terrible traveller and had seen even less. With plans set to leave for Oz, we thought we should probably have a look around New Zealand before we left and decided to turn the standard one hour flight from Auckland to Wellington into a little bit of an adventure instead. 

New Zealand is world renowned for its incredible landscapes and adventurous hikes; and being the home of a very famous series of films. A Lord of the Rings road trip is a very popular choice since there's so many sites to see but I've never seen any of the films myself so that wasn't on my agenda. 

I am not one for exerting too much energy, especially whilst I am on holiday. So, with just under a week to spare before we set off for Sydney, we took a leisurely drive down the North island. 

Auckland 

We actually left on a Friday night after work but having seen an incredible waterfall the week before, I thought it was definitely worth mentioning. Half an hours drive from where we lived or 50 minutes from the city, KareKare falls was a perfect little light afternoon adventure. Park up the car and take a 3 minute, signposted walk through the forest. We arrived in the late afternoon to a totally empty waterfall. It was incredible. 

Hamilton

We arrived in Hamilton in the late evening and left first thing in the morning but it wasn't a problem because there isn't all that much to do there. We would have skipped the destination altogether but Jonnys cousins live there so we went to visit them. We hit up the casino in town and then grabbed some food before heading to bed; so that was all we saw of the area. If we had a bit more time in the morning, I would have liked to eat a Nourish POD and visit the botanical garden.

Waitomo 

Having booked a tour that we were both very excited about, we left Hamilton at 9.45am and arrived just over an hour later. Waitomo is famous for its glow worm caves and whilst there is the option of rafting or caving through them, we booked a much more relaxed walking, guided tour that ended with a boat ride through the caves. Our guide was a local man who told us all sorts of magical stories about the caves past and how the glow worms came to be there. The boat ride was short but incredible - it felt like a real life Disney ride.

Rotorua

After the caves we headed straight to Rotorua. We spent a fun filled afternoon at Skyline; grabbing gondolas and chair lifts to the top of mountains and ziplining and luge-ing down them. It was super busy but very well run so the few hours we spent there was full of activity and there was hardly any waiting around.

Afterwards, we headed into town for japanese food and spent the rest of the night back at Aria's Farm - our accomodation for the night. With a clear sky and the moon so big from the recent eclipse, they suggested we do some star gazing from their hot tub, so that's exactly what we did! A truly magical day in New Zealand. 

Before we left Rotorua in the morning, we took a dip at the famous hot pools at the Polynesian spa.

Taupo

An hours drive later, we arrived in Taupo; another place full of natural phenomenons. We stayed here for two nights, although it was doable in less. Having tried a farmstay in Rotorua, here we experienced Boulevard Waters, a boutique motel right on the lake and The Lake Motel, a retro themed studio flat.

Over the two days, we hit up Huka Falls, the Craters of the moon and the Watakeri terraces as well as I'm sure you've guessed, lots of eating. With your own transport, it's very easy to park up at each one and take a leisurely walk around. It's also worth mentioning that all three of these attractions happened to be on the same road. 

Wellington

Wellington is the capital and one of my favourite parts of the country because it's full of life and also full of quirky cafes. Jonny is originally from Wellington so apart from spending lots of time with his family before we left, we spent most of our time wandering around town trying to pick where we wanted to eat.

There are lots of other things to do there though including driving up to the top of Mount Victoria for panoramic views, visiting the Te Papa museum to see the giant squid, walking along the bays and if you're a LOTR fan (which I am not) the Weta studios are supposed to be very good.
From Wellington, you can hop on a ferry and sail across the Cook Strait to Picton on the south island.

This little trip really made me appreciate the beauty of the country which I definitely didn't see enough of by staying in Auckland! Had we had more time before we left the country, I would have loved to see some of the south island as well.

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Are cruise ships for old people?

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Having just got back from sailing the med on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I thought sharing my average day on board could be an interesting topic. It seems fairly obvious that most people think you have to be over the age of 60 to book all inclusive cruises but from my experience, that usually isn't the case.

I won't lie, this last cruise, it absolutely was the case and full of old people. It wasn't ideal but, it was the first time I've experienced the issue in 15 + years of cruising.

Even though the crowd was old, that doesn't mean there's nothing for young people to do on cruise ships. The Independence of the Seas has all sorts of fun stuff for younger people from an ice rink to an arcade and even a newly added escape room.

It's very easy to laze around on a sunbed all day if that's what you enjoy; the buffet is just next door to the swimming pool and the soft serve ice cream machine but that isn't our style and our days were packed full from beginning to end.


Breakfast

From a huge buffet on the top deck to a served breakfast in the main dining room, like all of our meals on board, there were lots of options. I did get up for food for the first few days, but soon discovered it was the easiest time for me to skip a meal (you'll understand why by the end of this post) so my day usually started by meeting my parents after they had had breakfast at around 9.30am. 

Explore on Land

Arguably, the best part of a cruise holiday is that you wake up in a new place almost every day. We did a 12 night Spanish Mediterranean tour which consisted of 8 stops and 4 days at sea so when we were docked, we got up early and went to explore. Sea days were the perfect excuse for a lay in.
There were some awesome stops, surprisingly, a few that we hadn't been to before but my two highlights were Lisbon; we hired a lady in a tuk tuk to show us around before stopping off for a whole load of pastel de natas, and Ibiza where we climbed to the top of the island to look over the ocean before climbing back down to the habour for a well deserved paella.

The good thing about it being accessible for the older generation is that everything is super easy. The ship docks, you walk off the gangway and then you're ready to go! You can join a coach tour and get picked up from there or go off and do whatever you fancy.

Lunch

Only a small part of our day was spent on shore, we usually got bored after a couple of hours and couldn't wait to get back on the ship to eat some more.

Activity

After lunch was my favourite part of the day and usually when we'd find ways to entertain ourselves on board. Sometimes I'd head to the gym but I'd usually save that for windy days at sea; so on sunny days at port my brothers and I would head to the top deck to go on the Flowrider.

On this particular day, I went straight from the gym and with lack of preparation, jumped on in my sports bra and shorts. Definitely recommend a sturdy top and I have had some flyaway bikini tops in the past!
After that, it was time to grab my headphones; and sometimes a frozen cocktail, and find somewhere cosy to curl up for the rest of the afternoon.

Get Glam

Time to head back to the room to get ready for the evening! To my mum's despair, most nights I went for dinner super casual in a sweater and shorts. There were 3 formal nights on our voyage and although we didn't get to fancy for those, I did step it up from the loungewear. Some people get really dressed up in floor length ball gowns and suits!

Dinner

The buffet was open but we would always go to the main restaurant which was spread across three floors and this was where our eating got totally out of hand.

On one of the first nights, my brother couldn't decide which starter to order so our waitress said she'd just bring him both. From then on, we got into the habit of ordering any dish that sounded good which meant while everyone around us was having a normal three course dinner, we would have anywhere between 4 and 7 courses turn up for each of us. Think NY steaks, lobster tails, lamb shanks and duck breast mains, it was all very rich and decadent! 

Drinks & Show

By this point, the ship had set sail again and the internet connection was gone for the night. We did struggle but it was a good thing because it meant we didn't spend all our time glued to phones. Buying onboard wifi was extortionate so we only did that on days at sea.

My dad liked to go and watch the show after dinner and if it sounded good, we'd go with him. Otherwise it was a matter of grabbing a cocktail and chilling at one of the many bars around the ship for an hour or so. 

Games

Back together after that, we usually spent the rest of the evenings playing cards and drinking cocktail after cocktail in the sports bar.
Failing that, I took the odd night to go back to the room early and watch Netflix in bed!

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